Book Review – Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity

Review of Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity by John Mercer. I. B. Tauris. 2017. Review by Brandon Arroyo, Concordia University, Canada. The title of John Mercer’s book certainly intends to make an impression. With an assertive, commanding, and all-encompassing title like Gay Pornography, one eagerly wonders if this might be the contemporary sequel to Thomas Waugh’s foundational Hard to Imagine (1996). However, Mercer’s aims are far more modest - yet no less essential - than Waugh’s. I bring this up to suggest that the over-reaching title ultimately overshadows the sensible and focused line of thought maintained throughout. A more accurate title might have been: Gay Pornography’s Keywords, because of its success in articulating a vocabulary describing the role of gay pornographic culture within masculinist society. This is the book’s primary contribution: to provide readers with a unifying discursive framework through which to understand gay pornography’s contemporary mediascape. Mercer’s keywords are the linguistic tools essential to producing dynamic pornographic studies in the future.

Editing (Out) Queer Sex: Born to Raise Hell (1974)

by Gary Needham, University of Liverpool, UK The 1974 film Born to Raise Hell was described by gay porn pioneer Fred Halstead as the best SM film he had ever seen and, more recently, by its current distributor as ‘the standard, the ultimate classic BDSM movie that all gay BDSM films are judged’. Rarely seen since the 1970s, the film was largely undocumented with the exception of Jack Fritscher’s interview with the film’s director Roger Earl in 1997 and has only recently seen the light of day. [1] My own interest in the film is around gay sexual cultures of the 1970s and the contiguous formal and political relations in representations of gay SM. This is also an attention to formal and sexual relations and the question of how sex is edited and, in turn, what (now) also gets ‘edited out’ through various cultural, political and legal policing in both representation and discourse. I want to claim Born to Raise Hell as an instance in which one can reassert the outlaw politics of homosexuality vis-à-vis contemporary queer theory, which, Tim Dean suggests, has become one of ‘institutional respectability by strategically distancing itself from the messiness of the erotic’. [2] Politically, we need to reassert the erotic in queer studies if it is to have any meaning for our actually lived lives. Recovering Born to Raise Hell from the 1970s seems to me a useful place to start ‘thinking sex’ again.